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Hub Pages to the rescue of child literacy- Check out a success story

Updated on July 23, 2012

My very close friend 666 Divine is also a writer on Hub Pages. She has two truly exceptional granddaughters. The older of these kids was having quite a hard time with her reading. We were a bit surprised at this. The older child is highly intelligent and highly creative.

(She’s even considered intelligent and respected by her extraordinarily brilliant younger sister. That’s no minor achievement. The younger girl, who’s six, can turn adults into intellectual confetti with a few words and has a mind which makes a bear trap look like a pathetic attempt at a mousetrap.)

We were therefore worried at this rather odd lack of reading skills. 666 Divine tried a reading exercise, and the older girl was really suffering. She didn’t like reading. She didn’t want to read. She went looking for excuses not to read. This is a kid with an incredible imagination who can get 100% on her French Dictat and who loves stories and compulsively makes picture stories. So why not read them?

666 Divine has extraordinary grandchildren, but she’s also an extraordinary grandmother. With true grandmotherly love and grandmotherly cunning, she asked:

“Why not write your own story, then?”


The older girl produced what turned progressively into a torrent of words and ideas, which you can see on 666 Divine’s Hub, An Anxious Move for a Child.

You’ll notice that where Chapters 1 through 3 are a bit tentative, Chapter 4 lets go with an unstoppable roar of ideas and fluency. This is the older girl we know and love, cutting loose with her storyline. The story also deals with her feelings about a particular issue, as explained on the Hub.

The next day, 666 Divine rang her granddaughter and said, “I’ve put your story on Hub Pages!”

The girl was thrilled. Her own story, on a website. “That’s so cool!” The reaction was about 400% positive and counting.

I’ve got to know and love this kid as a truly fascinating person. She’s truly deep, by any standards, let alone those usually attributed to a child. Those three words are an ocean trying to talk.

Children’s literacy- The biggest issue on Earth

Most adults are understandably horrified by the standard of literacy in younger kids. I’ve seen an architecture student, a very bright guy indeed, stuck with a vocabulary and usage which would make a jingle writer blush. I’ve seen kids honestly trying to express themselves without a hope from their “education”.

What is wrong with the basic idea of getting kids to understand their own language?

Is there a law against it? You’d think so, from what’s coming out of the concentration camps formerly described as schools.

That’s not the only problem, by a long shot. This is a global disaster in progress. The fact is that this generation of under-10s are in a very difficult cultural and educational spot:

They’re going to be living and working online for their entire lives, unlike any generation before them and in multiple roles. They’re going to have to understand what they read in pluralized platforms and often in multiple contexts. That’s the real meaning of the word “literacy”. It’s not the ability to read. It’s the ability to understand what you read.

Consider a society which treats those with literacy weaknesses as handicapped people. Literacy problems can destroy any possibility of education before it starts. So many people are affected with literacy issues these days it’s no longer possible to put down the sheer numbers to increases in population.

The real reasons for literacy problems can vary a lot:

· Developmental issues- The brain’s hardwiring trying to catch up with learning. (Reading requires a lot of development of capabilities, and some kids really do struggle in this area.)

· Educational methods- Things like “whole reading”, that classic misnomer of “words as pictures” and lousy, lazy comprehension training like “literal meanings”, which even the old nursery rhymes didn’t use. Try taking Humpty Dumpty literally, see how far you get with understanding it.

· Garbage to read- Boring or uninteresting reading materials.

· Pedantic, One Size Fits All teaching methods- This particular atrocity is based on the strange theory that all kids are the same. That has never been, and never will be, the case.

· Confrontational school environments- Places where kids spend more time worrying about negative environmental issues than actually learning.

· Being treated like idiots because of learning issues- Ridiculed because they can’t get a grip on reading and therefore demotivated from learning to read properly.

These kids are being allowed blunder through their education and come out seriously disadvantaged at the other end. That’s not exactly a great outcome for the world, the kids, or their parents, who are paying for this slopfest with money and tears of grief and frustration.

The 666 Divine Method, explained

My friend hit the target squarely with her “Write your own story” idea. This is truly brilliant. It also follows on faithfully from the original kindergarten idea- Kids know how they want to learn, and they can teach themselves by doing.

These are the basic points:

You’ll notice that this method starts by getting the child to do exactly what they’re obviously not able to do at school- Participate in reading and writing on their own terms, safely, and without fear of consequences. No wonder the result was a non-reader producing a written story.

There’s a reward- The story is published on a website, and they can see their work for themselves. This is an achievement they can see, not a lousy, painful memory of not being able to read some trivial little text and being laughed at by other kids and in some cases truly lousy teachers as well.

The learning method is now self-driven. It has its own motivations. The brutality of a railroading system of learning is avoided and customized for the child as an individual.

Reading and writing are now fused processes- The interrelation of the two is clear, not “inflicted” on the kid. Writing is now an understood process, not a threat. It can be used without the fear of failure which can crush kids like cornflakes.

The online approach- Extending the method

The online publishing adds value, but it also provides useful training for the future. These kids will need to deal with multiple communications forms, and the sooner they become acclimatized to the combination of learning and communications, the better.

The ability to relate basic skills like reading and writing to these critical communications skills is absolutely essential for development of the reflexes of functional human beings of the future. These kids didn’t get the techno-fear of earlier generations, but without literacy, they’re at risk of something worse- techno-dysfunction. That will be the equivalent of illiteracy in its worst form in future years. They could be unemployable, and perhaps even unable to communicate with friends online. It’s a miserable possibility, and inadequate attention to literacy is going to be the cause.

The achievements of a child

Every parent and every caring human being knows how much achievements mean to a child. A kid who’s beaten a problem is a much happier, more confident kid. The kid who beats their learning issues is also a kid who’ll have fewer problems in future. They can’t be scared off. They know they can beat their problems.

Literacy is the big issue for everyone. This world can’t be operated by illiterates. Future generations must be able to read and understand, write and teach. That’s what’s at stake with children’s literacy.

Hub Pages has just published what may well be the first fully documented case of beating seriously obstructive reading difficulties in a matter of minutes. Let’s hope educators and parents get the message. This idea needs to be developed and to be used in the field to give those kids a real chance.

Kids can’t learn with the wrong methods. They can’t learn in an atmosphere of humiliation and failure. Kindergartens were designed by kids, for kids. The message then was the same message here- Give them the right tools, and they’ll learn, and learn well. These are the tools.


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    • Paul Wallis profile image

      Paul Wallis 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks, Kathryn, this is an area of eternal interest to me, will check out your stuff ASAP. Glad you appreciated this story, you're exactly the reader I wanted.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 5 years ago from LA

      You might be interested in my hubs. Particularly "New Direction Education, defined." I have printed yours and included it my NDE notebook. Thanks for your insights!!!

    • Paul Wallis profile image

      Paul Wallis 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      My pleasure. I really can't tell you how thrilled I am that you did this and that it worked so successfully.

    • 666divine profile image

      666divine 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Paul, thank you for bringing attention to these important issues.

      I posted my granddaughter's story for two reasons.

      a) was to alert parents to the silent suffering some children endure while in the process of moving, in hopes that parents will be sensitive to their children's fears and insecurities. If my granddaughter's story can prevent even one other child from such suffering, then it's worth it.

      b) to encourage my granddaughter to read, which it has.

    • Paul Wallis profile image

      Paul Wallis 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Jennifer- It inspired me, too. I've been so stunned/upset by the appalling literacy of people, even those with degrees, that I've been trying to figure out a way of getting the real message of literacy through, and 666 Divine came up with this. It was like Christmas to me, particularly seeing it work so effectively. At least you can be sure that your son will appreciate the chance to do a story and do it his way, which seems to have been the winning combination for this scenario.

    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 5 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      An inspiring hub! Thank you! I agree about the teaching methods in schools and the how they seem to lack the capability to teach our kids the basics in understanding what they read or taking any enjoyment out of it. I'm going to try this with my son... All the best, Jen